The History of Urrbrae House
Urrbrae House is a beautiful two-storey bluestone mansion, completed in 1891 as the home of Peter and Matilda Waite.
It replaced a large single-storey house believed to have been constructed about 1850 by Robert Forsyth Macgeorge.
"Urrbrae" was the name given by Macgeorge to land he bought in 1846 in the foothills south of the city of Adelaide: "Urr" after his home parish in Scotland and "brae" denoting a slope or hillside especially near a creek or river. The land on which the estate was based has remained unsubdivided since 1839.
Peter Waite acquired the Urrbrae estate in the mid 1870s with the assistance of Thomas Elder. Waite and his family moved into the existing Urrbrae House in March 1877.
The new Urrbrae House was designed by C. H. Marryat and E. J. Woods, built by Nicholas W. Trudgen and the interior decorations were designed by Aldam Heaton, a contemporary of William Morris. After the death of its founder in 1897, Aldam Heaton & Co. would go on to design much of the interior of the Titanic. Urrbrae House was his only commission in Australia.
Urrbrae House was the Waite family home until the deaths of Peter and Matilda in 1922. It was subsequently handed over to the University of Adelaide by their daughters, Lily and Eva Waite in February 1923. From which time the house has been used for many purposes.
From 1924 until the end of 1973 Urrbrae House was the residence of Directors of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute and their families. In the first years of the Waite Institute's existence Urrbrae House also accommodated the administrative offices, the library and a laboratory of the fledgling Institute until 1929.
In the late 1960s the Waite Director, Dr James (Jim) Melville suggested that part of the house might be used for the benefit of the staff and students of the Institute. Through the 1970s and 1980s Urrbrae House was the home of the Waite Staff Club and the Waite Refectory/Cafeteria.
During the 1990s Urrbrae House and its gardens underwent a major revitalisation as its heritage value and its potential as a focus for cultural and social activities for the on-campus community and the general public were recognised by then Director, Professor Harold Woolhouse.
Today, Urrbrae House is an accredited museum, and the historic and cultural heart of the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus.